Good question. Now try and answer it

In any case: it seems we are left with quite a few possible answers to the question posed by civil society NGOs this week. Strange, though, that no one else is trying to answer it...

I was wondering how long it would take people to start asking the only truly relevant question to be asked after any murder: any murder at all... still less one that has divided public opinion as irreparably as that of Daphne Caruana Galizia last October.

In the end, we had to wait six whole months. ‘Who benefitted from Daphne’s murder?’ Those words appeared on posters in various parts of the island over the past few days.... though whether they were put up by ‘Il-Kenniesa’, or ‘Occupy Justice’, or ‘Civil Society Network’... or any of a dozen other (seemingly interchangeable) organisations that all claim to already know the answer... I have no idea.

All the same: my reaction upon reading it was: ‘About bloody time you asked’.

Then again, it’s a lot easier to ask a question than to answer it. And what makes this one all the more difficult is that... there is more than one way in which a murder can be said to ‘benefit’ people... because there is more to everything in life than just ‘politics’ alone.

To me, the biggest mistake most people made in their immediate reactions was to assume, a priori, that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder had to be motivated by politics... even going as far as to describe it as a ‘political assassination’. Sorry, but how can anyone be so sure? I had been following Daphne’s blog very closely in the weeks and months before her death... and just as closely in the months and years before the election that preceded it. Before she even started blogging in 2008, I had followed her newspaper columns (twice a week in the Malta Independent since the mid-1990s, and in the Sunday Times before that) ever since she first started writing them in around 1989.

And I feel the need to point this out, because I was quite frankly flummoxed to read comments and posts (from people who claim to know every last detail about why she was killed, and by whom) to the effect that: ‘I didn’t know Daphne socially. I never followed her blog...’ Well, people commenting that way are hardly in the best of positions to convince the world they’ve already solved her murder, are they? And besides: on what basis did they reach their conclusions? Self-professed ignorance of all the most important clues?

But never mind that for now. I, on the other hand, did know Daphne Caruana Galizia socially (ever since I was around six years old, in fact); and followed not just her blog, but her entire journalistic career for almost 30 years. That gives me an insight that is very evidently lacking among most of the people who are publicly contributing to the discussion right now... especially (it has to be said) the international press, which very obviously didn’t know her at all. I have a rough idea of how many mortal enemies Daphne Caruana Galizia must have made through her writing over the years. And while it is safe to say that the catalyst for ALL that enmity is likely to indeed have been politics... the grievances that underpinned some of that hatred were not necessarily of a ‘political’ nature at all.

I am going to generalise here, because there is enough mindless speculation floating about without my adding to it. But people who did follow her career would instantly know what I’m talking about. In striking out at political targets, Daphne’s blog sometimes caused collateral damage to bystanders (not always ‘innocent’, naturally) caught in the crossfire. When outing ‘Politician X’ in compromising, embarrassing or downright criminal situations ... she would also ‘out’ their entire entourage... which, being Maltese politics and all, will often as not include some of the most fearsome criminal thugs known to mankind.

And the revelations she often pursued were the type that would elicit maximum damage on the family front. They could end marriages, cost people custody of their children, and so on. I’ll admit it’s not as ‘sexy’ a murder motive as exposing global money laundering networks involving governments and organised crime (more of this in a sec)... but any serious assessment of Maltese criminology over the past couple of centuries will almost certainly conclude that the overwhelming majority of local murders (especially where the victim was a woman) was motivated by precisely this sort of thing.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean it has to be true of this particular case. I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the other hypotheses on the basis of their media sex-appeal alone. But I must question why so many people seem so eager and ready to dismiss what any serious investigator would automatically consider a primary possible motive... in any murder, and in this one more than most.

All the same, let’s not make the equal and opposite error of excluding the political motive altogether. But that only reverts to the original question. If this really was a ‘political assassination’... who benefitted from it politically?

Again, it depends on how you interpret the ‘bono’ part of the Latin expression ‘Cui bono?’ (And no, it’s not a reference to the lead singer of U2). If we are to simply look at who gained/lost political mileage in the weeks and months since last October... well, it would immediately throw the entire ‘Joseph Muscat did it’ hypothesis clean out of the window, wouldn’t it?

It is in fact difficult to conceive of any immediate scenario in which Muscat comes out from this affair as the political ‘winner’. One minute he had just won an election by a (hitherto almost unimaginable) landslide... next, he is fighting for sheer political survival – or at least, to salvage what he can of his legacy – in the face of all-but global opprobrium. How can that possibly constitute a ‘benefit’ in this context?

As for the alternative hypothesis... i.e., that Opposition Adrian Delia had most to gain politically... well, I have my doubts on that front too. Delia wasn’t hit as hard as Muscat, but this didn’t do him a great many favours either. Politically, his main objective was to unite the Nationalist Party, behind himself as a strong leader, in time to pose a serious challenge by 2022. Well, Daphne’s murder put an automatic stop to any hope of that. Regardless whether or not he is privately considered a ‘suspect’ by many Nationalists... the resentment directed at him by Daphne Caruana Galizia before October 16 has only dramatically increased ever since. Like Muscat, he is today weaker, not stronger, than he was before.

But like I said earlier: there is more than one way to ‘benefit’ from a murder. The argument here (and it obviously applies equally to both Muscat and Delia, for the same reason) is that Daphne Caruana Galizia might have been murdered to prevent the emergence of more damning revelations in future. She may not have been killed exclusively on the basis of what she had already exposed... but rather, on account of what her murderers knew (or suspected) that she was about to expose.

That, on the other hand, is indeed a weighty and reasonable argument... or would be, if substantiated by revelations regarding what Daphne Caruana Galizia really was, in fact, ‘about to expose’.

Personally, I was under this vague impression that that was the whole point behind the ‘Daphne Project’ to begin with. That the 48 journalists from 18 newspapers would look into the stories she was actually working on at (or close to) the time of her death... with a view to shedding light on the possible murder motive. And they are the only people who can realistically do this, too; seeing as they are privy to all the data provided by the Caruana Galizia family.

What has been revealed so far is indeed very interesting... well, those parts of it supported by evidence beyond ‘he said, she said’ (in a shady bar, etc). But it doesn’t exactly add up to a revelation regarding the great bombshell Daphne Caruana Galizia was working on... the one that got her killed.

THAT is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, if we are going to insist so doggedly on an arcane political motive that may or may not even exist. To insist on that, however, would be to automatically preclude any of dozens of other potential leads. The most glaring of these omissions is the one I would prioritise the most, if I were conducting the investigation myself. In exposing ‘Politician X’, Daphne Caruana Galizia sometimes also exposed the inner workings of international criminal networks that, in themselves, are: a) completely apolitical, and; b) entirely homicidal.

She was working to uncover the Malta angle of a Sicily-Malta-Libya fuel smuggling racket, for instance. The Sicilian, Libyan and Maltese criminal underworlds all had a stake in that (and another eight previous car bombs are suspected to have been connected to the same nasty business). Not to mention money laundering operations conducted by the Soho mob’s prostitution racket in London, which Daphne Caruana Galizia exposed just a couple of months before October 16.

All this could ultimately prove irrelevant... but it goes without saying that criminal organisations ‘benefit’ from murdering people, too. (Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it so darn often, would they?)

In any case: it seems we are left with quite a few possible answers to the question posed by civil society NGOs this week. Strange, though, that no one else is trying to answer it...

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